Wolfgang Kaufmann – At Road America & Anderstorp
Wolfgang is one of the many characters in our
kind of racing. The German – nickname Piranha
– has an amazing ability to rattle off the story of a race
at breakneck speed, in a tongue other than his own. Here he tells
the tale of the Road America 500, in the Konrad Saleen, and then
Anderstorp in the Wieth Ferrari.
“I love racing
in America in the ALMS, and it was fantastic to have the chance
to race Franz’s Saleen at Road America. I loved the circuit,
but I didn’t have much time to learn it because Franz did
most of the driving on Friday, to check the car out and set it up
after the accident it suffered at Mosport.
“When I went out
for my first laps a driveshaft broke, so I didn’t get much
of a chance in it, and then on Saturday, Franz wanted to check the
Saleen over again. Anyway, he then let me qualify it, and start
the race: it’s a good job I don’t take long to learn
a circuit. I drove the first stint, and pitted with the car in fourth
in GTS, ahead of one of the Corvettes, which had gone off somewhere.
One of the team wasn’t wearing goggles at the stop though,
so we had a penalty for that, but Franz did a good job: then he
pitted under a yellow, but stopped too far from the fuel rig. The
guys had to push the car to and fro to get it nearer the fuel line,
and that lost us time. But I drove the last stint, and brought the
car home fifth in class.
are a number of developments that the ALMS car needs, and if those
could be carried out, we’d have the car on the podium. It
is potentially a fantastic car, and the Konrad guys are very professional,
but very funny too. The gearbox is different from the one in the
FIA car, and I’ve seen Franz lose some good places there because
of problems with the transmission.
it all comes down to the budget, but at least I had a chance to
race the car, and I think I impressed Franz. He knew I was quick
anyway, because he let me drive the FIA car at the Spa 24 Hours
Test – and we’ve known each other for a long time. With
my connections with Dunlop, it’s a perfect match for me to
drive the Saleen.
Franz is considering doing Petit Le Mans, but I’m already
down to race the Wieth Ferrari that weekend, at Monza. That’s
bad planning, having those two races coincide like that. But with
some luck, maybe quite a lot of luck, I might be in the car at Miami
for the next ALMS race. Franz wants quick drivers in the car, but
it all depends on budget, as usual.
“So one race in
the ALMS, then back to Europe for Anderstorp last weekend, in the
Wieth Ferrari. The team had been testing on the Bugatti Circuit
while I was in America, and I know that the testing went very well.
Spa for the 24 Hours, we’d used the new Forghieri engine in
the 550, and that was a big step forward. It was more powerful than
the old engine, but it didn’t have anything like the torque
of the Saleen’s V8: that is an amazing engine. But at least
we had taken a big step forward with the Ferrari, and we were confident
that we’d overcome problems with the power steering and water
times are now consistently much closer to the top cars in the FIA
GT Championship: say two seconds away from them. That is an amazing
achievement for a small team, building their own Ferrari. They’ve
worked incredibly hard at it this year, making progress all the
time. My qualifying time would have been even better but I lost
some tenths passing an N-GT car – but we still qualified ahead
of the #21 Care Racing Ferrari. How about that?
“I started the
race, but I flat-spotted a tyre missing the accident, and then the
flat spot got worse during the stint, but I kept the #21 Ferrari
behind me…and they finished fifth. The performance was really
good, and I was making the most of the car, despite the flat spot.
I pitted a little earlier than planned, because we didn’t
want to risk the tyre any more, and Tony Ring took over for his
first race in the car. He drove for 45 minutes, and did his best,
but it’s not easy jumping from a 360 Challenge car –
but he got quicker and quicker all the time he was out there.
was for me to drive the last hour and a quarter, with a splash for
fuel near the end, but we ran into some difficulties before that.
“We had a gearbox
leak and a problem with the hydraulics for the power steering. The
team hoped to fix the gearbox, but the leak was in a very difficult
place to get to, and the temperatures had got too high. So we had
to sit out the last period of the race, but we were still classified
as finishers. That was a disappointing way to end the race, but
this team is made up of fighters – they don’t give up
unless they really have to.
sure if Niko Wieth will drive with me at Oschersleben, or maybe
a professional driver. We’ll keep fighting, and keep looking
for a good finish: we all deserve it!
“So maybe I’ll
be at Miami after Oschersleben, and I would like to race in the
November race at Le Mans. I love racing!”